Back in 2014, then-First Lady Michelle Obama sparked a debate about what it meant to be mistaken for a retail clerk after she suggested allegedly being mistaken for a Target employee during a 2011 visit to a Target location in Alexandria, Va. constituted racism.
She told People magazine during a December 2014 interview on how the Obamas dealt with their “own racist experiences” that “during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf.”
Mrs. Obama then claimed only one conclusion could be drawn from the experience. “Because she didn't see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her,” she stated, as if people of other races were rarely mistaken for retail clerks. “Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn't anything new.”
In 2020, Mrs. Obama also talked about a white woman who allegedly jumped in front of her and her daughters at an ice cream shop when she was still First Lady. “All she saw was a black person, or a group of black people, or maybe she didn't even see that because we were that invisible,” she said, as though experiencing line-jumping wasn't a common occurrence that happened to people of all races every single day.
In a similar rant from this past weekend, Chicago doctor Brittani James, a self-described “antiracist feminist,” told a story of a recent shopping experience that left her shook as a black woman:
Dr. James did not find much of the sympathy she sought. Here are a couple of the numerous responses pushing back on her feeling victimized for being asked if she worked at a retail store (my response will be below theirs):
Many other commenters echoed the sentiment expressed in the above two, and for good reason. Seriously, who here has not been mistaken for a store associate in their lives? It has happened to me – a white woman – so many times that I've lost count. I've been mistaken for a Bath and Body Works employee, a Target associate, a Walmart worker, etc.
You know what my response has been each time? Instead of taking offense where I assume none was intended, I politely reply, “I don't work here” but then try to help them out anyway if I know the store by at least trying to point them in the right direction. If I don't know the store, I make a joke with them about how overwhelming the store is and move on.
Similarly, I saw a white man walking in Target Sunday who was flagged down by a black woman who asked him to get something off a top shelf for her because she couldn't reach it. He immediately walked over to her and helped her, they exchanged pleasantries briefly, she thanked him, and they both went along their merry ways.
Rather than feeling slighted, responding in such a way is just the “neighborly” thing to do. Isn't that what liberals lecture as the right way to be? Perhaps this is another one on their long list of things they say to practice but don't actually preach, much like coexisting and stuff.
As a side note, at Bath and Body Works, a couple of the staff members joked that I should put in an application because I got a woman who mistook me for an employee to buy several products upon recommendation. I laughed, then went to check out a few minutes later and they gave me a discount for my efforts.
Imagine treating experiences where you're confused for the hired help in a similar fashion instead of running to Twitter (or People magazine) to play the victim card and whine about being “tired”? Newsflash: We're all tired. The only difference is most of us don't take to social media to try and get people to read more into the “tiredness” than what it actually is.
I'm not suggesting there aren't some instances out there where someone saw a person who was black (or a woman or both) and assumed they were a store employee based on that, but what I am suggesting is that in most instances it's probably not, because most people you talk to – no matter their race – will tell you something like this has happened to them numerous times. Sometimes, oftentimes, really it's simply not about racism or sexism.
It's what the left should call a “shared experience” but won't because they'd rather make such experiences unique to a race or gender because fostering a victimhood mentality is much more profitable politically speaking than encouraging people to make the best of every situation and not automatically assume the worst about your fellow man or woman over a perceived slight.
What makes Dr. James' Twitter diatribe even more comical was that after she had been ratioed, she responded by suggesting the people who tweeted back to her were putting on a “literal MASTERCLASS in white fragility”:
So to recap, an accomplished doctor and liberal activist in her area pouts on Twitter over several tweets about the horrors of being asked if she was a retail clerk, and then she turns around and accuses her critics of “fragility” for pointing out how ridiculous she sounds? LOL. That's not how it works, buttercup. Not at all.